Pre-cruise experience: To start with I want to say that Princess surprised us a couple day's prior to our cruise to inform us that we were receiving an complimentary upgrade from an obstructed ocean view (ff) Emerald deck to a balcony (BB) Dolphin deck. We were truly blessed.
We left early Saturday from Reagan National on Spirit Airline. This was our first time using this airline so of course we had our concerns especially reading the reviews and looking at how they had so many different fee's but it turned out better then we thought. We checked & paid for our bags the day before; we checked in the night before and printed our boarding passes, at that time we received our seat assignments which were chosen for us automatically. At the airport, check in was quick & simple since we had our boarding passes. FYI* Spirit charges for ALL checked and carried on baggages; also for printing your boarding passes at the check-in at the airport but they have the cheapest prices around! We left on time, the flight was very pleasant, we arrived a few minutes early in Ft. Lauderdale and our bags came out first!
We chose not to get the transportation to the terminal through Princess so we caught a taxi in less then 15 minutes, they have a very pleasant and organized system. The taxi driver was very personable and efficient. It only cost us $15.00 for 3.
Embarkation: We got to the pier around 10am, gave our bags to the porter who efficiently stapled our luggage tags on for us and pointed us to the double doors for check-in. I have to admit the Princess representatives seemed a little disoriented to what was going on I assume it was due to people disembarking at the same time. There was maybe 75 people already in line, we waited about 10 minutes before they started checking our boarding passes and passports so we could go through security into the holding area. They separated everyone by their class (Platinum, Elite, etc.), we were there for 2 hour's waiting before they let us officially check-in. It seemed like a long time, but we were early and they recommend you wait to until around 2pm so no complaints, plus we noticed there was a long line outside in the heat to get in. There was some excitement when they started letting us in but it was personalities conflicting.
Check-in: I have to admit I think Princess could improve the area they have for check-in, it seemed just very primitive compared to other cruise lines. The process was very quick and representative very nice and efficient, took less then 15 minutes to check-in and board.
Boarding: As soon as we got on board we were directed by the crew to our cabin. As mentioned earlier we received an upgrade to a balcony which was a surprise for our son. We were greeted by our cabin steward Ronnie when we first arrived at our cabin, very nice person.
Cabin: Our cabin (D735- Dolphin) was awesome!! Our balcony faced the rear of the ship, was covered and large enough to be another room! The bed was so comfortable, we could hardly believe it. Though being at the rear of the ship we expected it to be little bumpier but it was just fine. The second formal night we came back to a pleasant surprise, a plate of treats: chocolate covered strawberries & bruschetta wrapped treats! Don't know who sent them but it was a nice treat!
Dining : We chose any time dining. We realized the first night that it was best to show up at 5:00pm to be seated immediately. I liked it better than I thought I would and it was a very pleasant experience. We had breakfast & lunch at the Horizon buffet. We enjoyed the wonderful food at the International Cafe throughout the cruise.
Entertainment : First night: We went to the welcome aboard show, we weren't impressed with Comedian /Magician Tim Metivier. Before each dinner setting in the Piazza on deck 5, they had a team called 'Body Balancers Duo Push' (Rocco & Micah) They were awesome, its an act that you do not want to miss! They have wonderful personalities and work the crowd. We watched them twice because it was so good! Second night: We watched the duo again, we decided not to watch the Comedy Hypnotist Ed Fernandez. Third night, Formal night : The main show in the was called- 'Destination Anywhere' and it was sub-par at best. I think its time for Princess to stop catering to the over 60 crowd and remember there are younger people in the crowd. The shows are always based on older subjects with a few up to date songs, not good enough. Forth night : Well, the show tonight was oh so much better, don't miss 'Motor City'. It has a better theme and a lot of oldies but goodies, I highly recommend it! Fifth night: We decided to retire early and watch one of the ship board movies in our stateroom, they showed several throughout the cruise : Cars 2; Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 1; Megamind etc. Sixth night : In the Atrium, they had a juggler named Bonk, he was awesome! In the Princess Theater, we were entertained by a comedian named Rollin' Jay Moore, he was very country and extremely humorous. Last night: We packed and turned in early.
Ports : Princess Cays was wonderful. The weather was beautiful! Recommend renting the Clam shell, was a nice addition to the day.
Curacao: Beautiful city, wonderful people! We took the excursion from the ship: Semi-sub / distillery. It was OK, the best part was our tour guide Josela, she was very well versed about the history of her country. She made it worth the while! We left the port late due to the fact that four people decided to come back late. My understanding hearing from another passenger, they were running up the dock as we left and ended up meeting the ship in Aruba! FYI* Princess will leave!
Aruba: The city is beautiful! We took an 4 hour excursion from the ship to the Depalma Resort Island and it was well worth the cost. It was all inclusive resort : free food, drinks, snorkeling, water-park, and banana boat ride. The terminal had stores with souvenirs which is very convenient.
Service: The service we received while on board was excellent, we did not have a negative experience with any of the crew member's whatsoever. We were treated like royalty the entire time we were on our cruise. From our cabin steward, Ronnie, our waiter Felipe & junior waitress Tania, head waiter Alfonso (Michelangelo dining room table 251). The waitress Shar Ann will greet you with a smile every morning in the Horizon and waiter Jeffery will be there to serve you. If you want to have photos taken find Willy, his skill is awesome, you will not be disappointed. Ralph, the future cruise representative, will be happy to assist you.
Food: We thought the food was superb! My wife is Filipino and our Head waiter Alfonso went out of his way to make her feel at home by having the Sous Chef Edwin make her authentic Filipino dishes for he dinner on 2 separate nights! You must treat yourself to the sandwich's, salads, and pastries at the International Cafe'.
Daily activities: There was more going on then I could actually mention in this post. A few of the highlights we enjoyed were: Art auction, Culinary class /galley tour by the Ambassador Chef for Princess, Line dancing classes, 5k on the Deck for the Cure, Future cruise talk, Captain's Circle Cocktail party, Deck Party. Some others were: Bingo, Trivia, Movies Under The Stars just to share a few.
Teens : They had activities for the young people all day long, my 14 year old son would join us breakfast leave at 9am and meet us for lunch at 12pm, then disappear until 5pm for dinner. He would leave us around 7:30pm and would return later in the evening. The group for the teens 13 to 18 is called Remix and we governed by a great group of adults. Sebastian is one of the leaders, this trip had 248 young people in this age group so they were busy all the time. My son totally enjoyed himself. Also the teenage area is open until 3am giving them a place to hang out when everything closes except the casino.
Disembarkation: We were given luggage tags two days before our arrival to Ft. Lauderdale and ours we Gold 3 which indicated we were to meet to disembark at 9:50am, my concern was our flight going home was at 1:30pm and if we got stuck in the Customs line too long we may be late getting to the airport. I went to the pursers desk and explained my concern and they were happy to help me by giving me Pink 1 tags for 8:40am. We were able to get off the ship,get our luggage and get a taxi by 9:00am. We were pleased, EXCEPT for the fact that instead on the porters separating the luggage's by color and number, it was only by color so it was mess with everyone scrambling to get there luggage.
This was the most relaxing cruise we have ever been on and we have already booked our next cruise on the Crown in October 2013!! Looking forward to our Transatlantic cruise! Take it from us, the service on-board the Crown Princess was above excellent, ignore the negative and YOU make YOUR cruise the way YOU want it to be! Happy cruisin'!!